Regulatory Issues

Written on: October 1, 2022 by Doug Raymond

Detailed last month were the amendments to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Consumer Products volatile organic compound (VOC) regulation. These amendments become effective on Jan. 1, 2023 for certain product categories. Make sure your company is up-to-date on these changes and complies by the effective date, as there are only three months left!

Just when the industry thinks there will be a break in CARB activity, another “opportunity” comes along. On Sept. 22, the CARB Executive Board voted on the new 2022 State Implementation Plan (SIP)—the State Plan to achieve the ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet the Federal Air Quality Standard. As California has the worst Air Quality in the country, achieving this standard will be very challenging. While most of the emphasis on new air quality regulation is on NOx, some VOC reductions are still needed. California’s modeling shows that reductions from Consumer Products would significantly contribute to the ozone attainment progress, especially in the South Coast.

CARB has a long history of working on Consumer Product VOC emission reductions. For 30 years (yes, 30) the industry has been working with CARB to reduce VOC emissions in Consumer Products. To date, more than a 50% reduction in VOC emissions has been achieved. However, according to the State, population growth and associated growth of product usage has begun to erode the benefits of the emission reductions. Further, VOC emission reductions are needed to offset the future projected growth in Consumer Products. These reductions are needed to help meet the Federal Air Quality Standard of 70 ppb.

The difficulty in achieving these emission reductions is that Consumer Products are made up of many, many products, unlike automobile emissions, which has one source—
autos! To achieve further VOC emission reductions, CARB staff will need to assess the VOC inventory of Consumer Products. Typically, CARB staff relies on product surveys to gather this information. These surveys are time-consuming and burdensome to the industry. CARB is considering buying market data on Consumer Products to assess sales of product categories. However, CARB will still need to rely on manufacturer surveys to obtain actual product formulation data.

For the first time in this author’s memory, CARB has stated that they may utilize reactivity-based regulations to achieve equivalent VOC emission reductions. Typically, CARB has used mass-based regulation to achieve emission reductions. Unlike mass-based reductions, any reduction in reactivity-based limits is an actual reduction in ozone formed, which is the sole goal of the SIP—to reduce ozone formation. Thus, we as an Industry should support the use of reactivity-based regulation.

That being said, it will be extremely difficult for CARB to achieve the emission reductions that are required. Currently, the SIP requires CARB to achieve 20 tons per day (tpd) of VOC emission reduction by 2037. To put this in perspective, the last rulemaking achieved an emission reduction of 8tpd. That took the industry more than two years to develop.

However, it gets better as CARB must bring something to its Board by 2027, stating whether the emission reductions are doable or not. In all my years doing this, CARB staff has never said that they cannot get the emission reductions. Maybe this will be a first and they will say they cannot achieve the reduction. However, this is the same agency that just passed a regulation that bans the sale of all new combustion cars as of 2035!

We have a little over four years to work with CARB on these emission reductions, which seems like a long time, but it’s not! Here we go again. SPRAY